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SAFEGUARDING ETHOS, ELAN AND TRADITIONS OF OUR ARMY

A lot of debate has taken place on the recent incidents of cleaning up of remote and high altitude areas of tourist waste by the Indian Army. In the first year of NDA rule when the yoga mats flew away, due to a storm a day prior to the world yoga day; the Army was pressed into action to lay the mats and some enthusiasts among senior army officers in Delhi were noted for the photo operations in the company of PM and other dignitaries.

The Army also laid pontoon bridges upon the Yamuna river for organisation of a huge rally by a godman who enjoys patronage of the ruling government. The army has been allegedly deployed to clean the sacred Ganga river. At a solemn function as the Retreat after the Independence Day, the combined services band was made to include Bollywood tunes, literally dancing to the tunes of the government of the day; throwing ethos and tradition to the winds. Where are we headed with this and where and by whom will the line be drawn?

It is strongly felt in the veteran circles that the government has crossed the line in treating its elite Armed Forces as per its whims and fancies. It is adversely affecting the moral fibre and the morale of the proud men and women in uniform. By tampering with the succession order, the government is also encouraging rise of compliant senior officers over the efficient ones. The confidence of the rank and file and junior officers in their higher command is fast eroding as they feel that the seniors are only giving orders for self serving purposes with scant respect for the ethos and elan of the services.

In the present case of cleaning the muck of irresponsible civilian tourists in remote areas; it has now been clarified that no formal orders have come from the Raksha Mantri (RM) as it first appeared to be, and in turn, the service headquarters have also not passed any such orders.  The RM had obliquely remarked that Ministry of water conservation which is responsible for Swatch Bharat Abhyaan  in rural and remote areas expressed the desire that probably the army could be of help in such inaccessible areas.

It seems some intermediary exuberant commanders passed instructions in good faith or in order to get noticed by the powers that be. Some of them have gone overboard by holding brooms in uniform and trying to emulate politicians. We are from an army, where when we joined; you were looked down upon if you carried your own child while in uniform. Imagine how pleased Pakistanis will be with such pictures in their propaganda to show the Indian troops down!

Although Congress also systematically degraded the stature of the Armed Forces at the time of independence and then successively during the pay commission through envious bureaucrats and retired members of judiciary;  to their credit,  they did not interfere in the internal functioning of the army and respected the institutional norms. It seems that the present establishment has either misunderstood the meaning of civilian control or is as arrogant as in all other matters concerning governance. Did we hear them say less governance is better governance ?

Successive appointments of inexperienced, lightweight politicians as RMs who are not duly elected and have less acceptance amongst masses, let alone soldiers, is further aggravating the situation. There is no dearth of retired experienced senior officers and NDA government would do well to pick up RM and RRM from this fraternity. The Ministry of Defence needs to be given the importance it deserves and national security must rest with armed forces and not with police officers who are best suited for internal security of the country. The service headquarters should be fully integrated with the ministry with experts being part of decision making.

In a recent social event with a few senior army officers, they expressed their inability to change things because all powers are being centralised with the three chiefs. The armed forces, like the judiciary, should have a collegium consisting of all army commanders and Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) and important policy decision should be taken through mutual discussion with equal voting rights and proceedings should be recorded. Service chiefs would serve the forces well if they did not express their mind on all issues prior to discussion.

Having seen and worked with over fifty armies of the world in United Nations I feel we still have one of the most apolitical, dedicated and efficient army in the world and it is the responsibility of all Indians to ensure it remains at the top. The politicians and bureaucrats have a great responsibility towards the armed forces, the last bastion of the nation, who are custodians of national security.

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12 Comments on "SAFEGUARDING ETHOS, ELAN AND TRADITIONS OF OUR ARMY"

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K Rajinder Singh
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But will the self centered netas and babus realise the damage they are doing. Or will another Mogul or British Raj will make them understand

V N Thapar
Guest
Traditions and ethos help to prevent dilution of standards in the Army .Hence tempering with these due to not understanding there pertinence or due to sheer indefference has to be checked.e.g. Mess Silver is never taken out for any purpose except a unit function. When a wrong instruction is passed it is for the senior officer to dig his heels and to see that the wrong order is nit passed on.Plaint behaviour or evenmore ready to agree conduct causes harm. For instance why did the senior officers not put their foot down when operational equipment was misused for making a… Read more »
Angad Sandhu
Guest

I completely agree with you Col. Thapar. It appears that these subservient officers have forgotten the very echoes which were instilled into their hearts and minds when they joined the academy. The efficient officers are sidelined while these “Yes Sir” officers are being promoted. The men despise such officers. After all we were taught in the academy that the safety, honour and the welfare of the country comes first always and everytime and the safety and comfort of the men we command comes next.

Dipak Gurung
Guest

Well said General. Soldiers study about economy, politics, international affairs, development, education etc and are well exposed and educated. But are the politicians; who are supposed to authority over the Army or the military, have any knowledge about the military? In democracy the civilians are supposed to be in control of the Army but are they capable enough? The political leadership must have sound military knowledge to provide able leadership. In the developed countries most of the leaders had served in the military and knew the defence mechanism well.

IS Singha
Guest

Thanks Dipak. Couldn’t agree with you more.

Sandeep
Guest

Well said and brought out intricacies of babudom developing within the defence services under the pressure of govt and vested intrests of organisational heirarchy for paltry gains at the cost of ethos and culture. But, why such things only after hanging the uniform in most cases? Why the change of mind and worry for degrading service ethos are only realised after crossing the stage of power to resist the uncalled.

Jacob
Guest
General it’s a piece straight from the heart. Blame anybody and everybody but the blame must and should rest at the doorsteps of the chiefs. If Army has slid down the hierarchy its because it accepted it willingly. Internal feudalism that has categorised the army into the “more soldierly” and the “less soldierly” now referred to ” as those who want to be with be the contractors” has taken its toll too. If merit alone was the criteria and “reservations” as it exist today is banished Army would have taken baby steps forward. Army brought upon its state by itself… Read more »
Col Rajive Kohli
Guest

Defence of the country should not be politicised and also be safeguarded from self serving bureaucrats. Soldiers are brought up with the ethos of country first which they also practice.

Ashok Kumar Chohan
Guest
I do not agree about the tampering of seniority bit . It is far better for the government to be upfront about its choices ,rather than to manipulate the system to get its nominees is place in a purportedly fair system which is not fair at all . It is not as though these shenanigans don’t come to light . They do , as rumours and informed tidbits shared among’st confidantes , and go a long way in totally subverting the system of fair play and uprightness in the defense services ,” by creating an environment of uncertainity and fear”… Read more »
Tony
Guest

Dear Iqbal, a well written piece. Our army is still better and apolitical. What remains is that our senior officers are reminded of the last paragraph of your article that our nation expect that from them.

BPS
Guest

Ike great article. My take on the subject is slightly different. The rot has set in not because of others misunderstanding the Services or passing wrong orders, but, because of the us for not having put across our point of view in a candid manner. And as also, the way the Services have repeatedly been changing the their own policies eg the promotions boards.

Taran Sidana
Guest
The article has raised many issues. There is no doubt that the RM has to be a well seasoned and experienced person who has a deep understanding of various facets of Defence as also command respect amongst peers. A veteran will fit the bill better but is not really that important. More important is that the ministry must be an integrated and become genuine IHQ. Decisions need to be well thought out and deliberate because once articulated, then they are difficult to retract. I feel, senior veterans must form their own platforms and think tanks that can produce policy alternatives… Read more »
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